The outsider sounds of Mothspy
“Outsider music,” much to the contrary, is unschooled, unpracticed and often played on nontraditional instruments or by musicians—if you can call them that—with a certain psychological bent. In a word, many of these people are what society has chosen to label “insane.”
It is difficult to describe a band like Mothspy using “insider” musical terminology. Simply put, it is one of Sacramento’s weirder musical forces: an electronics-and-banjo duo that produces music as strange as any you are likely to hear on local stages.
The band is the brainchild of Hosh Michael McCray and Ruben Reveles. McCray, in particular, has been an on-again-off-again player on local stages for some time, performing years ago with Sean Hayashi (later of Umbravox and now a solo artist again).
Sonically, the duo is successful in being quirky and interesting, and it provided at least some level of a stage show (they both wore buggy sunglasses and red velvet capes during the performance). Nonetheless, the performance itself was somewhat limited, so much so that the audience tended to wander away from the stage and back to conversation during much of the set.
The band’s sound is one of the problems. In truth, the effect the music had on last weekend’s Old Ironsides audience may be more reflective of the audience’s own biases than it is of Mothspy as a band. The music is downbeat, and McCray’s super-dramatic vocals are reminiscent one moment of ex-Screaming Trees (and now Queens of the Stone Age member) Mark Lanegan and the next of the Cure’s Robert Smith. Coupling that with simple banjo and guitar lines and Reveles’ low-fi electronic loops (performed onstage through his laptop computer), Mothspy’s performance seemed relatively interesting at first, but it quickly became repetitious and lost my interest. Take note: This is music to make love to but perhaps not music to drink beer to.
Therefore, the band’s new CD, Sueño Azul, is a release music fans just might enjoy, despite the live limitations. Check out www.mothspy.com to order and for more information.
I also wanted to take a moment to note the other bands on the bill. The name Army of Trees has appeared several times in this column in the past year, and its presence on the Mothspy bill was welcome. The band continues to be impressive—melodic and fun grunge music with a decidedly pop, 1960s, melodic vibe.
Perhaps more important was a revelatory set by the Proles, a band that received a bad rap in this column last year and for which I now need to eat crow. Last year’s set was at an earsplitting volume, but this time, the volume levels were reasonable, and the band could be heard. In a word: terrific. Check out www.theproles.com for more information.